Specialized training aims to reduce deaths in the line of duty.
BY DANZA JOHNSON
TUPELO – A firefighter’s worst fear is to see a colleague trapped in a burning or collapsed building with no way to save him.
As summer approaches, so does the potential increase in fires. That’s why Tupelo firefighters have been going through the three-day Rapid Intervention Training course over the last several weeks, said Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker.
In 2008, 114 firefighters have been killed in the line of duty nationwide, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. This year, 16 have died.
Walker said even though he hopes he never needs to call on the RIT team members, it’s good to have them on hand.
“Their sole purpose will be to rescue our guys if they get into trouble,” said Walker. “They are trained to deal with most dangerous situations that a fireman can encounter. They are our safety nets.”
RIT training is different from most of the training firemen go through, according to Walker. As a part of RIT, firemen have to learn to enter burning or damaged structures by using unconventional methods. Because they have to work in dark, cramped and unstable areas that firemen normally avoid, RIT training is very physically demanding.
“You may have to push through a wall to get to a man, or cross through downed wires,” said Walker. “No matter what the situation is a member of the RIT team must enter into danger to rescue a fellow fireman.”
Fireman Bill Wardlaw and Capt. Craig Nash are the department’s RIT instructors. Both trained in Indianapolis to get certified.
The National Fire Protection Association mandated fire departments have two men outside on the RIT team for every two firemen inside fighting a fire.
All 93 firemen in the Tupelo Fire Department will get RIT course.
“Going through the RIT training made me realize I wasn’t ready to save one of our guys if he was in trouble,” admitted Wardlaw. “Now we have a lot of guys trained and it’s comforting to know that if something happens, people can help.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.